Archive for November, 2007

Toy Recalls This Year: Asia 45 Million, USA Zero

November 29th, 2007

Two items in The Wall Street Journal really caught my eye this week. First of all, in total for the year so far, 45 million (yes, million) Asian (mostly Chinese) toys have been recalled. That is just about enough for one toy per child in the entire country! How many of those toys were made in the USA? None. The odds of buying a safe item with one choice is very clear. History is going to look back on our era and not be able to believe this poison imported toy issue was tolerated. Just wait until folks realize it is not just the toys…

Secondly, did you realize that those giant transport ships coming over here from Asia create more pollution than ALL the cars and trucks in the world combined? Really, it sounds false, but I am not making this up, as The Wall Street Journal is reliable. Therefore, in fact, getting cheap goods from abroad has a real and meaningful environmental cost in both the production and transportation of the item. Producing goods locally not only makes sure it done buy our standards of pollution control (and poison control), but save a huge amount of waste being dumped into the air even bringing the products over here. Any friend of the environment should be a friend of made in the USA.

On a positive note, I have been getting lots of e-mail of support with ideas on products that are, or should be, made here. I really want to thank each of you! It is too cool that we are coming together to help support America this way. I sincerely believe that together we are making a difference.

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What Can We Do?

November 19th, 2007

There are lots of reasons to care about products being made in the USA.  For example, jobs, America’s future, product safety, foreign worker exploitation, a cleaner environment, etc.
We can change things.  We can make a real difference.  I have worked in corporations for 15 years, and understand that executives are a lot more sensitive to bad PR than one would think.  The company seems like a monolith, but managers may end up having to go home and explain to their friends and family why they are moving jobs overseas.  It is about sales, but it is also about being seen as a leader in the community.  That’s a big part of not just their view of their own reputation, but also key in getting the next fat contract.
If, for example, you hear that a major US chocolate producer is considering moving production to Mexico, tell them about your concerns.  Senior executives get a lot less mail than you might realize, so if they suddenly start getting twenty letters a day on a topic, it’s a nightmare.  Heaven forbid these folks start writing to newspapers, or standing up at shareholder meetings, etc.
As long as the executives feel customers don’t really care, some will ship jobs abroad all day long.  However, when they realize folks care, and are watching, believe me they will become righteous.
Stores, even big ones, have to care about customer suggestions/complaints, as long as they understand customers have alternatives and are willing to pursue those alternatives.  For example, if a local merchant is more sensitive to the Made in USA issue than the local mega-mart, but the mega-mart is somewhat cheaper, we have to be willing to sometimes spend more.  It does no good to say “Hey Mega-Mart, I don’t like that this item is made in China and could contain toxic materials, but it is $10 cheaper, so I will take three.”
Let’s just keep in mind that the cashiers at the Mega-Mart don’t set policy, so there is no point in being mean to them.  We need to at least catch a manager.

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Product Safety: It is Not Just Toys…

November 11th, 2007

This week saw another massive recall of toys. In the USA 4.7 million units of the game Aquadots were recalled, after children in Australia got sick, including several going into a coma after eating the beads included in the product.

Colorful beads that look like candy. For those of us with kids, you know they are going in the mouth.

They were made in China. Initial reports indicate that a subcontractor intentionally use a cheaper chemical to make the beads. Unfortunately, it was toxic.

In America, that would be criminal negligence, and someone would not only be libel, but go to jail. Unfortunately, it is just another day in many countries.

Companies are fully aware of this issue when they push production of their products to these countries. They probably get assurances from contract manufacturers about the quality and make a few daylight visits to see the site where they assume the product is actually being made. Trouble is that cost is the only advantage these contract manufacturers have, and to win that bid they probably needed to cut corners. Subcontractors will be used that have even less issue with using cheaper components, like for the chemical dyes or paints.

The issue is not limited to toys, but is also common in the food and clothing produced in these nations. Do you think they are checking for toxins when they source the cheapest supply?

What percent is actually checked at the border? 10% or 1%? Try almost none. Problems are only caught when folks start getting sick. How do we catch the toxic products that cause issues 20 years down the road? Keep in mind this issue is not limited to toys. It can come through exposure in items we eat, touch, or wear.

Toys have got a lot of press lately, but it is the tip of the iceberg. Once imports are really put under the microscope, we will find heavy amounts of toxins in many, many imported food and clothing products. The one way to be certain now is to only buy products from countries that actually abide by normal product safety laws.

Is that cheap product really worth it in the end?


Posted in Foreign Product Safety, Uncategorized | 1 Comment